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Thread: Is happiness a choice?

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    Aporia Dysphoria Dirac's Avatar
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    Is happiness a choice?

    Can you choose to be happy?

    Seems to me like this isn't always possible. Some things are gonna make you sad, right? I suppose it's a question of strength - some people are going to be able to choose happiness in the face of worse situations than other people, and probably this ability can be trained.

    Is it even desirable to choose happiness? Should sadness be telling you something - like ignoring physical pain, you might be missing something important.

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    In short, as I see things emotional states largely supervene upon the choices you make, so, while it is indirect, yes -- you can and net-effectively do choose when you are happy (or sad, or mad, or whatever).

    As for happiness athwart adversity, that is just a special case, as such.

  3. #3
    New Member Night's Avatar
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    Depends on the details of your life. All emotions are transient and deal with your understanding of what's going on around you, and how well you fit into it. Context is critical.

    Is it my choice to be happy today, with a career and family? Sure - absolutely. If I'm a child and my parents were forced into a military truck by men with crooked black-and-white crosses on their uniforms because it's 1943 and I just happen to have been born Jewish, then no -- it's probably not within my control to be as reasonably happy with what's going on around me.
    Last edited by Night; 12-26-2013 at 05:34 PM.

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    Tawaci ki a Gnaska ki Osito Polar's Avatar
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    Heck, yes. I think Night offers an exception which proves the rule. To expand on that, I'll offer up Roberto Benigni's classic film "Life is Beautiful" which is a meditation upon this subject. It's a classic movie which you should really watch, but to summarize it's about a man who ensures his son's happiness even though they are in a concentration camp. His own happiness is perhaps a more complex issue over the course of the film because he's aware of the situation they're in while the son is not. Benigni offers up an interesting character.

    I think you choose whether or not to be happy, but you also choose what effect you're going to have on the lives of other people around you. No matter what your life is like you do choose your outlook.
    "I don't have psychological problems." --Madrigal

    "When you write about shooting Polemarch in the head, that's more like a first-person view, like you're there looking down the sight of the gun." --Utisz

    David Wong, regarding Chicago
    Six centuries ago, the pre-Colombian natives who settled here named this region with a word which in their language means "the Mouth of Shadow". Later, the Iroquois who showed up and inexplicably slaughtered every man, woman and child renamed it "Seriously, Fuck that Place". When French explorer Jacques Marquette passed through the area he marked his map with a drawing of a brownish blob emerging from between the Devil's buttocks.

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    In my experience, it is. I think it has to do with accepting things the way they are if you can't change them. But it's difficult to do it, and I think many people have no idea that it is possible.

    The way I see things, there is momentary happiness and a more durable, permanent happiness. The first one can be changed by external factors. The other is a background feeling of peace that, once you learn it, is constant despite your current mood. It also helps you get rid of your bursts of anger and sadness sooner.

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    a fool on a journey pensive_pilgrim's Avatar
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    I think it shows a large amount of privilege to think that one always has choices available that lead to happiness. Sometimes the best you can do is try to minimize the pain. Physical or psychological pain. People are pretty adaptable, though, and emotional States tend to adjust to circumstance, so that people in what would seem to be be dire situations can find a sense of well-being, but people are also quite breakable. Watch some horror movies in addition to the uplifting dramas.

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    Dr.Awkward Robcore's Avatar
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    I think that firstly, it is erroneous to view happiness as opposite to other emotions. It is perfectly normal to experience happiness concurrently to sadness. People just pay more attention to negative emotions, failing to realize that the only reason they aren't destroyed entirely by negative emotions is because there is a positivity that persists beneath the surface.

    Happiness is not the absence of other emotions. Happiness is neutrality, acceptance, willingness and reason. If you have these, then you are happy. You can have all of these in the face of any emotion or circumstance, without diffusing the fullness of the other emotions.

    Also, in addition to the movie, "Life is Beautiful", there's a fantastic book called, 'Man's Search for Meaning' written by Viktor Frankl, reflecting on his experience in Auschwitz.

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    Tawaci ki a Gnaska ki Osito Polar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robcore View Post
    Happiness is not the absence of other emotions. Happiness is neutrality, acceptance, willingness and reason.
    Robcore, while I agree with the majority of what you've said, I do disagree here. I think you've identified one kind of happiness, but it's really a complex emotion that encompasses a wide range of feelings. For example the happiness you feel when finding an especially good parking spot is not the same as the happiness you experience when falling in love. Honestly, my favorite kinds of happiness involve a sort of giddy exuberance that doesn't have a lot to do with neutrality and reason -- but that's just me. I think happiness is highly personal and can differ quite a bit due to variations in peoples personalities, what they want out of life and why. As an example, imagine the happiness of comedian Sinbad and contrast it with how you'd imagine the happiness of Prince Charles.
    "I don't have psychological problems." --Madrigal

    "When you write about shooting Polemarch in the head, that's more like a first-person view, like you're there looking down the sight of the gun." --Utisz

    David Wong, regarding Chicago
    Six centuries ago, the pre-Colombian natives who settled here named this region with a word which in their language means "the Mouth of Shadow". Later, the Iroquois who showed up and inexplicably slaughtered every man, woman and child renamed it "Seriously, Fuck that Place". When French explorer Jacques Marquette passed through the area he marked his map with a drawing of a brownish blob emerging from between the Devil's buttocks.

  9. #9
    Aporia Dysphoria Dirac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robcore View Post
    I think that firstly, it is erroneous to view happiness as opposite to other emotions. It is perfectly normal to experience happiness concurrently to sadness. People just pay more attention to negative emotions, failing to realize that the only reason they aren't destroyed entirely by negative emotions is because there is a positivity that persists beneath the surface.

    Happiness is not the absence of other emotions. Happiness is neutrality, acceptance, willingness and reason. If you have these, then you are happy. You can have all of these in the face of any emotion or circumstance, without diffusing the fullness of the other emotions.

    Also, in addition to the movie, "Life is Beautiful", there's a fantastic book called, 'Man's Search for Meaning' written by Viktor Frankl, reflecting on his experience in Auschwitz.
    Do you think people can be happy but not realise it? It just seems that what you are calling happiness is something different from what some people would recognise as happiness.

    Also what is your opinion on people with "mental health issues". Do you think a clinical depressive can choose to be happy?

  10. #10
    Dr.Awkward Robcore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Osito Polar View Post
    Robcore, while I agree with the majority of what you've said, I do disagree here. I think you've identified one kind of happiness, but it's really a complex emotion that encompasses a wide range of feelings. For example the happiness you feel when finding an especially good parking spot is not the same as the happiness you experience when falling in love. Honestly, my favorite kinds of happiness involve a sort of giddy exuberance that doesn't have a lot to do with neutrality and reason -- but that's just me. I think happiness is highly personal and can differ quite a bit due to variations in peoples personalities, what they want out of life and why. As an example, imagine the happiness of comedian Sinbad and contrast it with how you'd imagine the happiness of Prince Charles.
    I use the term happiness in the sense where it pertains to a stable contentment. It's the only sort of happiness that seems reasonable to consider in the context of living one's life in the long-term. Amusement, giddy excitement, and other 'happy' feelings are all fleeting, and not desirable as the answer to all of life's experiences. Such amusement and the like are perfectly acceptable upon a foundation of the happiness that I'm referring to...but of themselves, I do not consider them 'happy'.
    Giddiness is fine in some contexts, but it doesn't pass for happiness by itself...there are plenty of giddy people that are on the edge of madness, and I don't think that that is genuine happiness.

    I think many of the fleeting forms of happy feelings serve only to imitate real happiness, which, as I said above, is neutrality, acceptance, willingness and reason in the face of life circumstances. Only where there is real happiness do those 'happy feelings' translate into something of substance.

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